Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Based on what we heard in Sunday’s message, what are some of the weaknesses that exist in Western Christianity? Which of these is a potential weak spot for you as well?
- How do you think a right understanding of the Gospel responds to these weaknesses?
- Interact with this statement: It’s hard to say we value the worth of Jesus if we aren’t serious about the Word of Jesus. What would it look like for you to be serious about the Word of Jesus in your own life?
- Read James 1:22. How can our group better assist in the application of God’s Word in your life?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
So we'll call him Matthias and we'll call her Joanna. They're married. They are living as Jews in the early first century. They're living in the mountainous regions of Cappadocia. Now Cappadocia would be what we would consider modern day Turkey. And they lived there basically as farmers. They have worked their fields enough and have grown enough that they have been able to afford to live in a modest home in the mountains. They have one child and one on the way. And every week, they are faithful to make their way, a bit of a journey down the mountain to the synagogue that's there for the Jews who have been dispersed all over the place and who haven't lived in Israel for quite some time, maybe even centuries.
They gather there, because that's what they do. They're Jewish and they study the scriptures and they understand them a little bit better and they pray. And then every Spring what they do is they take a long trip. They head 500 miles south to Jerusalem. And there they take the opportunity to be able to participate with other Jews all over the world during the time of the feast of Passover. But because it's such a long journey, 500 miles to get there, they not only stay for the feast of Passover, but they stay for the next 50 days after that for the feast of Shavuot, or feast of weeks, or what we would call, time of Pentecost.
While they're there, one year when they're there for the feast of Passover, they are enraptured a bit with the teaching of a man named Jesus. And it's compelling and they're hearing things that they have not heard before, but soon thereafter when they're exposed to his teachings, some of the religious leaders come behind and they say, "Pay him no mind. He's a blasphemer. We're gonna deal with him." So they kind of brush it off and they try to pay him no mind even though what he was saying was quite compelling.
And so as they're there in the town, they hear a lot of disturbance and uproar because a number of people are being put to death by crucifixion, which was not totally unusual in Jerusalem, but maybe slightly unusual during this timeframe. And they found out that one of those was Jesus. But a few days after his death, there's more commotion in Jerusalem and they hear his body is not to be found in the tomb in which he was buried. And so word gets around that his body is not there, but they assume because of the religious leaders had planted this idea that some of Jesus' disciples or followers had come and they had snuck in and they had taken his body and no they're proclaiming like, "Hey, he's alive." The religious leaders said, "Pay them no mind. That's nothing to think about."
And so Matthias and Joanna didn't. And they stayed for the next 50 days and when they are there, the morning of the feast of Shavuot or the feast of weeks or Pentecost, they are gathering in the morning for their time of prayer outside of the temple area and there are thousands that are there that had come from all over Asia Minor to be there for this particular festival. And while they are there, one of Jesus' followers named Peter comes out on a veranda and begins to preach very loudly. And he begins to proclaim the message of the Gospel, who Jesus was, that he lived, that he died, that he rose from the dead, just like the Hebrew scriptures had said that he would.
And the extraordinary thing about this is, he is preaching this message to all of these people from all over Asia Minor and Matthias and Joanna are hearing this message in their Cappadocian language. Right as they sit there, which was probably an offshoot of Greek, kind of a Cappadocian Greek. They're hearing this message in that language and they're astonished. And as they are hearing this message, they are cut to the heart and with many others that are there, they start yelling out, "What should we do?" And Peter says, "You need to repent." Turn from thinking the way you were thinking and put your faith and trust in the resurrected son of God. The one that has been promised to Israel, put your faith in him so that you can be reconciled to God. You need to repent and then be baptized.
And you know what? They did. They repented. They were baptized. And they along with about 3,000 others that day, were added to the church and they decided they weren't even going back to Cappadocia to their farm. They were going to stay because they wanted to be a part of this group, a part of what was happening because they sensed that God had transformed them, changed their life and they wanted to dive in and understand what the Apostles were teaching. And so they left it all behind and they stayed.
Now, I made that story up. Matthias is a real common name from the ancient world. Joanna also a very common name from the ancient world. But while I made that story up, it's not an untrue story. Stories exactly like the story I just told you, happened in the early church. Coming from Cappadocia and Phrygia and from all places in Asia Minor there and then some of them coming to faith in Christ never going back to their homes, but staying there, belonging to the body of Christ, right they were. Leaving it all behind because they wanted to follow hard after Messiah Jesus. Now that is serious. That is serious.
Now why I tell you that is because these were a people who were devoted. We hear that word used of those that were in the early church that they were devoted. They were devoted to a number of things that we're going to look at in just a minute. But this word devotion is kind of talking about how serious they were. They were serious in what they were being devoted to. And I wanted us not just to hear the word devoted, but I wanted us to think about it in human terms. This is what these people actually did. They traveled long periods of time. They were confronted by the Gospel in a supernatural way. They left their places, they stayed in Jerusalem, they became a group together, a new kind of human being, a new kind of family, the church. And they were serious about a number of things.
Now we've talked about that already. What were they serious about? What were they devoted to? And I want to highlight one for us today that I don't want us to miss and it's Acts Chapter two, where we've been studying in verse 42. It says, "They," meaning the early church believers. "They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching." And it goes on to say, "and to fellowship and to the breaking of bread," and as we talked about last week, "and to prayer." They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching. Now when we say that, what exactly are we talking about? What was the content of the Apostles teaching? In other words, they were devoting themselves to what the Apostles were teaching, but what was it that the Apostles were teaching?
Well two things. Two things that can also kind of carry over to one another, but there were two distinct things that they were teaching. The first one is, they were teaching what the Hebrew scriptures, because remember, the New Testament wasn't written at this time. There was no New Testament. They only had the Hebrew scriptures at this moment. So the first thing they were teaching is how Jesus was revealed and how Jesus fulfilled the Hebrew scriptures. And they were teaching what Jesus taught and what Jesus did when He was here among them. Those were the things. That was the content of their Apostolic teaching.
Now for a moment, what I want to do is I want to help you understand some of the things that maybe they were saying to this new group of people, these new believers that came from a Jewish background. I imagine they were communicating very clearly about the death and the resurrection of Jesus. Because, He was the new and the better, Adam. They were also communicating about how Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses because Jesus was the new and better Moses. They were telling them that Jesus is the one who can deliver His people out of the bondage of sin and bring them into a new promise kind of life because Jesus is the new and the better Joshua.
They were portably telling them that Jesus is a king of a new kingdom. A kingdom that He is now bringing in and ushering in to this life because He is the new and the better David. That Jesus is the one who can stand in the gap for us and forever intercede for every one of His own, because he is the new and the better high priest. The one who has an indestructible life. These are some of the things they were teaching them. Because these are what the Hebrew scriptures were arguing for and pointing to. And of course they were talking about what Jesus said about prayer. What Jesus said about generosity. What Jesus said about forgiveness. What Jesus said about love. About loving your neighbor, about loving your enemy. What Jesus said about joy. What Jesus said about hope. What Jesus said about reconciliation to God. What Jesus said about salvation itself. He was teaching all of these things and the Apostles in turn, were teaching that as well.
But they were also continually in their teaching, referencing the Hebrew scriptures because that's all they had. And they considered it strong, strong evidence for what Jesus had done, what was promised about Jesus and how Jesus fulfilled that. In fact, when you start looking into the teaching and how they based it in the Hebrew scriptures, the Apostles when they were preaching ... Look at Peter's sermon in Acts, Chapter 2. Just in his sermon in Acts, Chapter 2, Peter quoted Job, Chapter 2, Psalm 16, Psalm 110. Because he was connecting it to who Jesus was as the Messiah.
Peter preaches another sermon in Acts, Chapter 3. And in that sermon, he quotes Genesis 22 and Deuteronomy 18. Peter also preaches another sermon in Acts, Chapter 4 and in that sermon, he quotes Psalm 118. By the way, Peter never quit doing this. Because when Peter got really old and he wrote two letters in the Bible, you know them, they're called I Peter and II Peter right? Written by Peter. And he wrote that in his old age. Did you know between just those two letters, by my count, 58 Old Testament quotations. Just in those two letters? He was serious about how the Bible talked about Jesus.
When you fast forward in the book of Acts, to Acts, Chapter 7, you meet a guy named Stephen and though Stephen wasn't one of the Apostles, he was taking the same kind of pattern that the Apostles took when he was preaching as the first martyr when he preaching to the Sanhedrin. Stephen actually, listen to this, Stephen actually quoted Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Exodus 1, Exodus 2, Exodus 3, Deuteronomy 18, Exodus 32, Amos 5 and Isaiah 66. You think he was serious?
When Paul was preaching in Antioch in Acts, Chapter 13, he actually referenced Judges and I Samuel and then he directly quoted Psalm 2, Isaiah 55, Psalm 16, Habakkuk I and Isaiah 49. In the Council of Jerusalem, when they were all deciding how they were going to minster to both Jew and Gentile, James spoke up and he quoted Amos, Chapter 9. And then when you get to the last book in ... Or the last part of the book of Acts, Acts, Chapter 28, the very last pages of the book of Acts, Paul the Apostle is siting in a Roman jail after he's preached the gospel in basically all of Asia Minor and Europe and Paul's sitting in a Roman jail.
And so what they do is they bring the Jewish leaders to Paul. Because Paul wants to have some time with the Jewish leaders, because he wants to straighten them out on some stuff. He wants to tell them some things. Notice what he says in Acts, Chapter 28. They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, these Jewish leaders did and they came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning til evening, explaining about the kingdom of God and from the law of Moses and from the prophets, he tried to persuade them about Jesus. And then the text goes on to say that some bought in, some said, "nah." And then he quoted Isaiah to them after that.
And he said, "Oh, they'll be ever hearing, but never responding. They'll listen, but they're not really listening." And then Paul goes on to say, "So, the Gentiles will." That's what he said to them. The Gentiles will. So Paul actually embeds himself in this context. You see, this was the content of the Apostolic preaching. The Apostolic preaching was about what Jesus taught and what Jesus did and also about what the Hebrew scriptures were revealing about Jesus and what they were pointing to in the fulfillment of what Jesus had done. So these things kind of worked together.
Now what I find interesting is when I read this, I'm reading that the early church believers were devoted to the Apostles teaching. They were serious about the Apostles teaching. You know that that tells me? Listen to this. It tells me they were hungry for it. Hungry. I'll be honest with you, if I meet somebody who claims to know Jesus, but is not hungry for His truth, is not hungry for His word, I'm concerned. Because one of the birthmarks of what it really means to be born from above, one of the birthmarks for what it means to be regenerated by the spirit of God is that inside of us, we have a hunger for the truth of Jesus.
You see, we sometimes in western Christianity and American Christianity or even Canadian Christianity, get really, really lax in the way that we go about stuff. Because we come in and we check a couple of boxes like God's impressed and I showed up and I threw a couple of bucks in the plate to give God a tip for showing up today and then kind of sit back and go well, bless me if you can. See what you can do. And it's almost like we choose to kind of treat this really casually. We don't think about it, we don't discuss what we heard. We don't write anything down, we just kind of move on. It's just another thing that we do.
But they were absolutely dead serious about the truth. And when we talk about how much we value Jesus and what He's worth to us, but we give no consideration to being in any real way committed to the word of God, I'm concerned. I'm concerned that maybe we've never really been regenerated if we don't have a hunger for the truth of Jesus. Maybe I could say it this way, it's a little pointed, but maybe you'll understand what I'm saying. It's hard to say we value the worth of Jesus if we're aren't serious about the word of Jesus. It's hard to say we value the worth of all that Jesus is when we're not even serious about getting to know Him in the way that He has given us to be able to know Him.
You see, when I think about that, I'm thinking about kind of the Apostolic teaching and how committed the early church was to Apostolic teaching. They were devoted. They were serious in this regard. So what did this teaching, what kind of form did this teaching take? Well, they had large groups right? We know there were 3,000 believers right that grew pretty quickly to 5,000 believers as we've been studying this. So we knew that there was a lot of believers. So what did they do? Well, they met outside the temple and there would be maybe thousands of them that would gather during that time and the Apostles would teach them. I don't know what that rotation looked like you know? Did Peter speak most of the time, I don't know. Did Andrew jump in from time to time? Probably. Did John jump in from time to time?
Well they were all witnesses to the life of Jesus. They were all witnesses to His teaching. They all were witnesses to His death and His ultimate resurrection and then His post resurrection appearances before He ascended to the Father. So these are firsthand witnesses that are now teaching these new believers, not only what the Hebrew scripture said about Jesus, but also what Jesus Himself taught them and that they're now passing along to the early church believers. That happened in a large, group setting. Thousands of people hearing the teaching of the Apostles.
But there were also probably medium range settings because they would meet from time to time in Solomon's colonnade and my guess is that those might have been an offshoot where maybe a few hundred were gathered during that time and they would have more of a medium sized gathering for some teaching. But here's what we also know. There were small gatherings and those happened in homes. Small gatherings that happened in homes. So what did they do in these homes? Well, they prayed and they ate. They probably laughed, right? I'm imagining they're full of joy right? They praised the Lord, they worshiped. But I can tell you what else I think they did. They broke down the teaching of the Apostles to help one another live out the truth of what they heard.
So in essence, what you have here. What you have here in the early church, are sermon based, small groups. That's basically what you have. In large settings, the Apostles would teach, but in smaller settings, the Apostles weren't in there. Remember right? 12 Apostles, right? You know the number. There were 12 Apostles and how many believers on day one of Pentecost? 3,000. Do the math. All of these believers are now starting to meet in homes after some of these large gatherings. There's 3,000 of them, there's 12 of the Apostles. That math doesn't work.
All of those Apostles were not going to be in all of those homes. Those homes weren't big by the way. They were very small. So they would host however many, a handful, 10, 12, whatever it was that they could fit in their home. But you couldn't put an Apostle in every single home. Couldn't do it. And by the way, what happened when that number began to get inflated from 3,000 to now it's 5,000? And it says, "Daily they were being added to their number." 5,000. Well how many Apostles? Did the number of the Apostles grow? Nope. Same number, 12. Now you're dealing with 5,000 people. That they're teaching in mass at times. That they're teaching in medium sized groups at times, but then these people find themselves in homes. And what are they doing in the homes? They're eating together, they're sharing with one another. They're praying for one another. But listen carefully, they're helping each other live out what the Apostles are teaching them.
That's what was going on in the early church. You see, it's actually that kind of impulse. That kind of impulse is what we a leadership team begin to feel pulsing in our own hearts. For our congregation, for our church. Because we thought to ourselves, we've got large settings and I recognize ... Let me just be super clear so nobody is weirded out. I already know I'm not an Apostle of Jesus in the sense of the 12 right? There's not now 13 because I've shown up. Right? I get it. I know I'm not an Apostle in that sense. But, I'm still doing what they were doing. I'm preaching the Apostles teaching. That's what I'm doing. I preach the Old Testament and the New, because the Old Testament reveals to us who God is and how He's revealed Jesus to us. The promises there. And now by the grace of God, by the grace of the Spirit of God, we have the Apostles teaching in writing. Thank God for that.
They didn't have any of that during that time. We have that now, by the leadership of the Spirit of God. We've got the Apostles teaching and writing in the New Testament. Everything we have in the New Testament is written by the hand of an Apostle or the associate of an Apostle. So it's Apostolic in it's authority. So when I'm preaching, I'm doing the same thing. I'm preaching the Apostles teaching to us all. So we do this in a large gathering. We have some medium sized gatherings that we do, like with our Equip Ministry and those kind of things, for a few hundred. But we also want to make sure that people have an opportunity to gather in homes so they can eat together, they can pray for one another, they can encourage one another, they can laugh together, they can do all that. But you can take the teaching of the word and start to encourage each other in how to life that truth out.
You see, that's the impulse that is driving what we're trying to do and that's why we're launching into these sermon based community groups. So why are we getting so serious about this? Why are we so serious about all this? Why so serious? Batman reference. Why are we so serious? Here's why. One, I feel an obligation as does our leadership team because we have ... I wake up and I go to sleep at night realizing something. Not all the time, in my face about it, but I'm reminded all the time, I am going to stand before Jesus and give an account for how I helped to lead this place. I'm gonna give an account. And I want to make sure that I'm putting you in positions where you are being shaped more into the image of Jesus and I do not take my foot off the gas just because I want to be liked by everybody and say, "Oh, it's okay. Just show up and be a spectator and don't do anything with your faith."
I'm not okay with that. Because Jesus has called on us to live our lives on mission and we can't do that if we're empty shells. We need to be shaped into the image of Christ. We've gotta be serious about discipleship. Serious about it. And so that's part of the impetus here. Secondarily, what we're talking about with these sermon based small groups, I think helps to work against some of what I'm seeing in Western Christianity that are issues that are problematic. And what we're going to do with these sermon based small groups helps us actually fight against those issues. In fact, let me show you a handful of them alright?
Here's the first one. Is that people in Western Christianity have a tendency to be spectators or consumers. I'm not necessarily talking to you, but I might be. I don't know. I know many of you and I know some of you, you're not even remotely close to a spectator or consumer. You guys are living life on mission. You're hard after Jesus. I mean you're going after it. I love that, that's awesome. But, there's many that just show up and spectate and consume. Like for instance, like what I'm doing right now is a product to consume, instead of truth to obey. You see, we live in a consumer driven world in a spectator kind of world. We don't even have to go out of our house to buy stuff anymore. We buy it online and they ship it to us or they drop it off by a drone. We don't even have to mess with humans. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It's convenient in many cases right? But what I'm saying is our lack of connection in a lot of ways is killing us relationally.
As a matter of fact, the more that we get socially connected, the lonelier we are as a people and a nation. The more depression and anxiety we see that is going on in our nation and the level of virtual connectedness instead of genuine, rich, real relationships that are built around truth, we start seeing a correlation. As a matter of fact, ask pediatricians. I've had conversations with some and many of them are talking about kind of the 11 year up through teenage years when they're seeing anxiety and depression more and more and more now. And that they are saying there is a direct one to one correlation between their involvement in virtual social media and their anxiety and depression and all of those things. The more connected they are, the more isolated they become. That is killing us as a generation of people because we don't have real, rich, meaningful relationships that are built around truth, but instead we're kind of looking at it in a virtual way and it's emptying us.
I say all this to say, this is why it's super important to have real connections. Real human being, live, real connections. Because we can't live out the truth just virtually. We have to live that out with other image bearers. We don't do that with bots. We do it with image bearers. This is the design of God. This is not me raging against technology. I'm not doing that. I'm just suggesting to you, you can't start making replacements in places that don't need to be replaced. And relationally by the way, we only have a certain capacity. Jesus didn't have 112 Disciples that were living life with Him, he had 12. You see not only is that consistent with kind of the tribes of Israel and the picture that represents with the 12 tribes, but I think it teaches us something about relational capacity as well.
You see, human beings, generally speaking. This is just kind of general alright? Human beings generally speaking only have the relational capacity for 10 or 12 outside of our family, 10 or 12, deep, rich, meaningful, strong relationships. We just don't have the ability to manage much more than that. We can have more acquaintances. But we don't have the ability to manage more than that in terms of deep, rich, meaningful, true relationships outside of maybe 10 or 12. And that's true by the way whether you're in a church of 5,000 or you're in a church of 100. You have the same relational capacity no matter what.
So when people sometimes show up and they're like it's a big church, you know I couldn't possibly know everybody. Of course you can't. I don't. I see people all the time, I'll be out eating somewhere and they'll be like, "Pastor Jerry, what's up?" And I'm like, "Hey, have we met?" And I'm assuming you go to The Chapel, right? Because you know me, way better than maybe I could know some of you. Because there's thousands of people on multiple campuses and then we got people that watch us on TV or online or whatever and then they come up and they feel like they know you, which is cool. I love that. And I love being able so say hi to people. I'm glad when people say hello. If I wasn't, I would stay home. I love people, I love when they say hello.
But listen, you can't know everybody. I don't know everybody. But listen, my job is not for everybody here to know the Pastor and for the Pastor to know you. My job is to usher you in to knowing the Master of the World, which is Jesus. It doesn't really matter ladies and gentlemen, if you forget my name, I just want to make sure you don't forget Jesus' name. That's the most important thing in the World. So, we need to be connected and when we are, we start working ourselves out of the idea that we are consumers and spectators and we start recognizing ... Listen to this, we are actually givers instead of just takers. That we have something to bring, that we have some way to serve, that we have gifts that can be utilized as opposed to just taking and we have the privilege of being people who aren't thinking that we're gonna live this life just on our own.
You see, there's no real Lone Ranger of Christianity. I'm just doing my own thing, it's like me and God, we have an understanding. No you don't. You have no understanding. Because God's trying to say, "Stop doing this by yourself. That's ridiculous. I made you a part of a body." Do you know anybody with just one body part? Look at that wonderful body. No, that's just a nose. That's all, it's a nostril, it's not even a nostril, it's like a nose hair. That's all that is and you're calling that a body. That's not a body, that's a nostril. So don't give me this, "Me and God, we have an understanding." No you don't. You don't have any understanding. Because when you are isolated, you aren't doing what you should be doing because you have something to bring. So we have to work against that and how do we do that? We're gonna break this down and help one another and be iron sharpening iron so we can begin to grow in the likeness of Jesus. That is what discipleship looks like.
There's a second issue that this helps to combat and it's the issue of disunity. You see, disunity really comes from kind of a consumer culture. Because it's a me driven culture. It's all about me. I do what I want, when I want, how I want. I can watch everything I want on demand. Oh no, this is not my schedule, I'm not doing that, I'm gonna record you and I'll watch you when I want. By the way, some of those conveniences are wonderful. They actually help me, if you can prioritize your life in the right ways then that's really great. I'm good with that. But, when we bring that kind of idea into what we're doing here, it becomes very, very disparate. There's a disunity that happens. There's a disjointing that happens right? Because it's all about me and what I want to do and this and that.
And do you know what we're doing with these sermon based small groups? Because not only do I see disunity in cities, where the church of Jesus who really love Jesus and believe the gospel and all that stuff and they'll never work together for anything because they're too busy turf shepherding. This is my area, you leave me alone. I'm gonna carve out my little market niche and it's just like, come on. Can we play in the same sandbox? Right? And sometimes we're doing that right? And so I see that from time to time, but I also see it in churches. But how unifying is it when listen to this, we have a common word. We have common faith. We have a common witness. Think about an entire congregation believing and obeying God in the same direction. That is beautifully unifying. That is beautifully unifying.
But there's another issue that this helps to combat. It's the issue of no intentional discipleship. Unfortunately, discipleship in a lot of churches in the West happens by accident, not by intention. Let me explain what I mean. This is just kind of an anecdote. So I'm not necessarily extrapolating this out and saying this is what all of North American Christianity is. But I was at a conference and the conference was in Orlando. It was called "Exponential." It's the largest Church planting conference in the United States, presently. And we were asked to be there as presenters. We were doing some breakout stuff around a few different things through our Christ Together network nationally that we're a part of. I was with a colleague. We were leading a breakout seminar on discipleship or transformation. We had about 60 pastors that were in this particular breakout and we did multiples of these, so we got to see a number of different folks through the course of time.
But in just this one break out, 60 pastors and they were there and we were talking about discipleship. And here's the question that I asked. "How many of you in your churches have defined what a disciple is for your people?" Because you keep calling them to be disciples right? You're telling them you need to be a disciple of Jesus. How many of you have defined what a disciple is for your folks? Two. Out of 60. Two. Then I asked a follow up question. "How many of you have an intentional pathway. And intentional pathway of discipleship for your people?" Two. Probably the same two, but two. Two out of 60. Now, I can't ... That's an a statistical sample. I can't extrapolate that out and say that's what it looks like nationally. I don't know. I'm just saying anecdotally.
These people even had somewhat of a missional impulse. They're at a church planting conference. They've got at least a little bit of a missional impulse. But I'm thinking to myself, how in the world are you gonna get after mission with people who aren't discipled? Because people aren't going to be engaged in doing the work of the mission.
I wasn't that amped up when I was talking to them, but I was a little bit amped up. Because you can see how serious that is right? Because when we don't have intentional pathways to discipleship, we're in significant trouble. That's why I thank God that we're taking it seriously here. And by the way, I'm not suggestion that our discipleship pathway is the only one that anyone could ever invent and that it's all over after this. The one that we've done, drop the mic, everybody get out. Every church copy us because we got it. I'm not saying that at all. But, we've got something. So I just won't listen to other Pastors who want to be critical. I won't listen to people who want to be critical. Because they ... "You know I've looked at your discipleship pathway and I'm not sure if I really like it." "Oh really? What are you doing?" "Well nothing." "Well, here's the deal Bud. I like what we're doing better than what you're not doing." Because at least we're putting a helmet on and running into some stuff instead of standing around and critiquing.
You see, we've got to have an intentional pathway of discipleship. Dallas Willard when he was writing about discipleship, he's since gone to be with Jesus, but when he was writing about it, he said, "Do you have a plan to make disciples?" And then second question, "How's your plan going?" And I thought, there you go. That's what we have to be able to answer. So the question here at The Chapel, do we have a plan to make disciples? You bet we do. How's our plan going? It's going. It can go better if you get involved. But it is going.
You see the thing about intentional discipleship patterns and what we're doing with kind of sermon based community groups right? We're taking this pattern of the early church and we're engaging it and going, "You know what? They were devoted, they were serious. Let's just do that here." Because what we're trying to do is say, what did they do in the early church because these people turned the World upside down. And how do we build a bridge from there into our context into ways that make sense? Because we're up against a culture that's trying to press into its mold.
So how do we do this? So this idea of kind of sermon based community groups, I think it's actually gonna help us in two levels in terms of your discipleship. One, it's gonna help your educational impact. Let me explain what I mean. There was this really interesting study that Harvard had put out and it was related to learning success and of course, they were studying predominately college students, but they noted after this Harvard study, they noted there were three primary factors in terms of learning success.
One, was that the attitude or expectation of the learner, in other words, you were hungry for this. You wanted this. You wanted to understand and know. That was one. Because you can imagine, it's not really a learning success if you come in going, "I don't really want to pay attention. I'm not much interested in any of this." Right? You're not gonna learn much. But if you've got an attitude of expectation and a good attitude toward learning, that's one. The second one, you know what it was? That you take good notes. And you know what the third one was? That you discussed this with someone afterwards. That's exactly what we're doing. Thank you Harvard. And we didn't learn this from Harvard, we're just doing something that they're confirming. That's exactly what this will do.
Because imagine it right? If everybody that's in a community group and these are sermon based community groups, all of a sudden, the way you pay attention changes. Because now, you actually want to jot some stuff down. If you're a leader and you're kind of leading one of these groups, like you're trying to take every note that you can take right? Because you want to make sure that you've got some content to be able to digest and talk about and think about how we live this out and how we act this out. But if you're also a participant in that group, you want to pay attention because you want to bring something to the party. You want to have something to actually discuss.
And that's what we'll do. We'll discuss it. Your learning success can be better. Because some of us, we're like in 400 Bible study's. We're listening to 6,000,000 podcasts a week and I'll be honest with you, that's better than putting trash in your head. But I need you to understand something. Sometimes what we're doing, is we're actually deceiving ourselves because we're filling our heads with knowledge and we're not actually able to act on any of it. And then we convince ourselves, man I'm really spiritual. I listened to like nine podcasts this week, my favorite sermons, it was awesome. Yeah, I go to 10 Bible study's a week. I know that there's not that many days in the week, but I go to sometimes two a day. Like I'm at Panera Bread early and then later I'm at Starbucks for a Bible study. Got a lot of stuff going on in my life right now. Lot of stuff. Full of the Bible. I'm so full of the Bible, I don't even know what to do with myself.
How about this? How about not turning into the Dead Sea? Do you know that everything flows into the Dead Sea and nothing flows out of it? It's so salty nothing can grow there. That's where some of our lives are. We're Dead Sea Christians. We continue to just bring everything in and we're not actually releasing anything. We're not actually acting on anything. We're not actually serving anybody. We're just consuming information. You're so salty nothing can grow there. You know I love you right? Do I have to pause and say that every time that I start getting exercised about stuff? I do, because I care. I'm exhorting you because I love you. Because I want something for you. This isn't really about what I want from you. This is about what I want for you. About how you can be more shaped into the image of Jesus. How you can be used to live life on mission.
But you know there's another way that this intentional discipleship pathway helps us? Not only in the educational impact side, but in our ability to engage new believers. Do you know the early church was meeting in these homes right? And they were committed to the Apostles teaching. But do you hear what is said in the book of Acts? Daily they were adding to their number. Those who were being saved. What were those people doing? Well they probably heard the teaching of the message of the Apostles in many times, and then they ended up coming into homes.
Think about it this way. Let's say that I'm at an art gallery, I won't be. But let's pretend for a second that I'm cultured like that. Alright? I don't know anything about art. I know two guys named Art. I don't know anything about art. But I love it, I appreciate it, I enjoy what the kind of visceral reaction that art brings. But lets say I'm in an art gallery and I'm with group of people who are really big time, like they're into art. They're artists and stuff. There's six of us just standing around. And the one lady says, "When I look at this piece, I feel like this is Impressionism at its finest." And then the dude over here goes, "While I appreciate that, I seem to think this is an Abstract Expressionism piece, based on my many years of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Right? And then here's me. "Those are pretty colors. I like that." I've got nothing to bring.
Do you know that's how new believers feel when they walk into your 62 week study in the Book of Leviticus? They walk in just kind of going, "That's a big Bible you have. It's really big. Mine's smaller." Do you know how we can engage them better? Think about it. New believer hears the gospel and they're transformed. They go maybe through our Foundations class, maybe through our Teachings class and that kind of stuff, but they're getting ready to come into a community group study. But they've only been a believer for four months, six months. And maybe they're about to walk into a group full of believers that have been walking with Jesus for some time.
But you know what? They're here on a Sunday too. They get to hear the message, just like you. And so they kind of come on even footing. "Hey, I heard what was taught also and let me tell you what I was hearing. How I was engaging with that." All of a sudden, they're not at a great place of difficulty anymore. Because that's what the early church was doing. They might have heard the message through the Apostles, but then all of a sudden they're in homes now and what are they doing in homes? They're talking about what the Apostles taught and how we can break that down and how we can live that out.
There's a last issue in Western culture that we need to address and this helps to address and that's the issue of deception. I've already hinted at it, but I'm basically telling you that because James kind of highlights that for us. Listen to how James said it. I'm gonna read this slowly. "Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Did you catch that? Because I can't go slower than that. Don't just hear it and then deceive yourselves. You know how you deceive yourselves? Hearing, hearing, hearing, hearing, hearing and doing nothing about it. That is deception and we are experiencing it in mass in the Western church. We have to get more serious about teaching the Word and applying it to our lives and talking with one another about how we can live that out. That is where we avoid deception.
See the early church was serious about this. They were so serious about it because it was fundamental to the mission. Because if we're gonna see every man, woman and child have a repeated opportunity to hear and see the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the mission of the church, then that's going to require each man, woman and child who is in the body of Christ, to really be a disciple of Jesus so that they can show Jesus to a world that desperately needs it. That's what it's gonna require. So what do you do with this message? How do you apply this message? If I've gotta tell you, then you haven't been paying attention.
Listen carefully. Look at this face for as long as you can take it. Look right here. Our vision is that every single person on every single one of our campuses is in our pathway of discipleship, particular in our community groups in our sermon based small groups. That's how strongly we feel about it. Now, am I gonna hire the F.B.I. to hunt you down if you don't do it? No. Am I gonna be judgemental towards you? Maybe, and then I'll repent. I'm not. Listen carefully. In love what I'm saying to you is, we're not doing this just as some kind of program feature. We believe it's going to be fundamental to the discipleship of people. To growing as apprentices of Jesus. To learning what it means to love one another. To forgive one another. To pray for one another. To help one another. To serve one another. This is how this happens. It doesn't happen in isolation.
So for me, if you were involved in a small group before and now you're not and you're kind of like, "You know what, I tried that and I didn't really like it." You don't do that with restaurants. "You know I went there one time and now I'm not gonna eat food. Ever again." But you know what you do, you go to another restaurant, that's what you do. "I didn't really like that restaurant." Okay, you go to another restaurant. You didn't just quit eating food. If you didn't have a great experience with that particular small group, great. Go to another one. You get an out. You try it and you're like, "What if I don't really like it?" Well then find another one.
But your option isn't to keep creating excuses about how you can hide. That's not your option. Your option is to engage. To be a part. To being to grow the community. You know why? Because we need you, not only in a community group, but maybe at some point, we need you leading them. Because there are people continuing to come to faith in Jesus through this ministry that we have to have a place to put them. And if you're not being discipled and growing in our discipleship, you're never gonna be in a place where you can actually disciple somebody else. So we can't ... Listen, don't be the lid. Don't you be the lid on what God could do through this ministry in reaching people. You don't be the lid. Choose what God would lead you to do. And, do it now.